Teaser 281: Hotel Hunting

I turned to Serena. “Would you like to accompany us? We can drive by the best hotel in Kapurthala and Jalandhar, that one's the better, and you can make a reservation if you like.”

“Is there room in your car?”

“Of course. It's a sport wagon, two bucket seats in front and two more rows, plenty of room.”

Bandwar had no plans, as I suspected, and was sitting in the lobby fifteen minutes later, walking stick at the ready, wearing the sandals I bought for him at my request. Heinz was dressed and waiting for my knock, since we had discussed driving to some of these properties the day before. Lena was ready, dressed casually as we all were, and Sofia jumped up, announcing she was ready.

We drove past the hotel in Kapurthala and I advised Serena they had limited suites and limited room service, available only during specific times and from a limited menu. They had a first rate restaurant but it was an open arrangement with little dining privacy. Serena wanted to look at the hotel in Jalandhar first and decide then if she wanted a closer look at the one in Kapurthala.

The hotel in Jalandhar was much more to Serena's liking. I accompanied her to the lobby while everyone else waited in the vehicle. Serena wanted to see the suite first, so the young male clerk advised it can be arranged, and turned to the female manager on duty, who greeted both of us immediately. Before we left the desk, Serena asked about the room service menu. The manager handed her the restaurant menu from behind the desk. “We offer our guests the full menu through room service, Madam, and there's a menu in every room. Room service is always available, night and day.”

The suite was on the top floor and Serena poked around the room, checking everything, asking many questions. Last was security, since she had decided the hotel met her requirements. Lance did not accompany her on this trip, since Serena was being quite honest when she spoke to us about her plans. She had none. She really was ready to leave at any time when she arrived. The manager advised they had hotel security available to sit outside the room twenty-four hours. There was an additional charge for it. “May I ask to whom I am addressing?” the manager asked discreetly, having avoided asking it before to appear as accommodating as possible.

“I am Serena Dominguez,” Serena responded, with her usual regal bearing.

Without sounding stunned, maintaining a decorum of that's not so unusual for us, the manager asked, “The movie star?”

“She hardly makes movies any more,” I responded. Serena frowned and the manager smiled.

“Will you be staying with us, too, sir?”

“Not this trip. I live in Subhanpur. We run a hotel there but we're booked.”

The manager knew I wasn't Indian, so when it hit her, she beamed at me. “Are you Al-Barrak?”

“I am.” I smiled at her enchanting smile.

“Hotel Shanti. I know all about it.” She turned to Serena. “I've eaten at their restaurant. Fabulous, authentic northern Indian cuisine. You've made a name for yourself.”

“I suppose we can't hide what we're doing, can we?”

“Not in the hotel business. We keep track of the competition, even the small ones like yours.”

Serena was getting a little peeved. “I don't want to interrupt your getting acquainted, but I would like to stay here. Can we get back to that, please?”

We journeyed to the lobby floor and the manager checked in Serena personally, never addressing Serena by her name, always “Madam.” When complete, she asked, “Shall we help you with your luggage, Madam?”

“Not at this time. Our luggage is in his hotel.” Serena frowned at me. I smiled widely.

“We look forward to your return, Madam. Should I not be on duty when you do return, I shall leave a note with security so they shall accompany you at the hotel at all times, and welcome to India, and Jalandhar, in particular. It is an honor to have you stay with us, Madam.” She was sincere the whole time.

I turned to Serena. “That's why I live here, Madam. Polite, courteous, friendly, sincere. Almost everyone in this part of the country is like that.” I turned to the manager. “Wouldn't you agree?”

She smiled to me warmly. “I was never taught any different, from my family and everyone.”

Serena frowned again. “He's trying in his not so clever way to convince me to live here, too.”

The manager leaned forward slightly in a conspiratorial manner. “Madam, it is my belief you will find it extremely hard to find anything disagreeable while you stay here. I, myself, have lived in other countries, both as an employee of this company and on my own, and when I do, I immediately look forward to returning, and I always return.”

Serena frowned even more, but gathered her composure. “So, we are through here?”

“Yes, Madam. Everything will be ready when you return. Only come to the front desk.”

As we walked out of the expansive lobby to the vehicle waiting, Serena advised me, “I think I can no longer count the times when I have said to you, 'You enjoy this too much.' Here I am again, with the same thought. You enjoy this too much, Al-Barrak.”

“What's not to enjoy? By my side I have my favorite movie star. In the vehicle waiting is my favorite African queen, my favorite female adolescent, a crazy business partner, all driven by one of Deutschland's finest. What's not to enjoy?” Serena slipped her arm around mine but turned her head to tease me so I couldn't see the smile pasted on her face. “Yeah, don't show me your smile either, Madam. That will give it away.”

“Let's go see these properties, Mister Landlord.” Serena shook her head severely while squeezing my arms tighter and bemoaned, “I'm in love with an Arab real estate baron.”

- Just Desserts, Segment Thirty-FivePainting an Alternate Hollywood Portrait” by Gregory R. Schussele, © 2021 contact me, as always: schussprose@gmail.com